Crofting – Goats on the Loose

The North Field

My friend Bernadette said that if there were problems with the stall, the goats would let me know. They did. Goats need more than two screws to hold a board in place. Okay, now we know.

The big dog was tied up and started barking like a crazy old thing. Nicholas got up, went to get him in, and found three goats at the end of the driveway, staring at the dog. They had worked their way out of their stall via a loose board and a lot of (I suspect) Tara wiggling, as she is the spryest and most adventurous of the three. The barn door was open for light and air circulation, so out they went into the grassy new world. I grabbed the bucket, dumped in a scoop of grain, and they all followed like little ducklings right back into the barn. I shut them in, although the stall wasn’t secure. There was nothing for them to get into but the hay, and they can have all of that they want.

Nicholas and I went out after supper, repaired the stall as best we could, and secured them inside a bit better. All the doors are locked or braced shut, and once it gets dark, they don’t want to wander anyway.We are headed to the lumberyard tomorrow for more stall materials and the boards for a nice chicken coop.

Although they are new to us, the goats are very trusting and friendly. The buck is now nicknamed “Uncle” after the movie, of course – which I haven’t seen. They are cooperative and easy-going. But they are incredibly curious and seem to have no fear of dogs. Ash wanted to get out and teach them a lesson today, but they haven’t been worked (herded) with dogs, so that will have to wait until we get the fence in place, and Ash has had some review lessons herself. She whined at the door after we shut her inside, and a peculiar whine it is – just for herding. It is different from her “I’m in pain” cry or her “I don’t like this dog” whine or her “where’s my supper?” whine. She is not a vocal dog, usually, but she has her own language. She and I communicate mostly by glance and body language and hand signals (well, my hand signals),and I can read her head feints. I think there really must be some ESP, too.

Nicholas stacked and split wood today, while I ran out to the landlady’s to drop off a load of her mother’s things and to pay our rent. We chatted about farm matters, health, growing lavender (can we, this far north?), fences, the Mennonite market in Centreville, and the porch sale she is planning. She pointed out the rest of our cord of wood which we will pick up during the week. I then went to the post office, mailed our tax returns and a little packet to England, stopped at the garage to check on my new rad hose (lovely) and see when the new tires will be in (Monday by dinner hour – noon.) Nicholas was napping on the couch when I returned. I made him a cup of tea and we ate the rest of the strawberry cobbler I made last night. The fruit was from our landlady. (Store bought this time of year, and she later dropped off apples, an orange and a kiwi.)

After we finished in the barn, we finally had a good chat with our next door neighbours. I have a parish connection to the family, and while the previous tenant here was the neighbour’s aunt, I think they are coming round to having good neighbours (remember the BBC comedy) who will lend a hand, drop off tomatoes from the garden and be available for a cuppa.

We had prayed for this place, the landlady had prayed for us as tenants; we had been praying for a friendly opportunity to enrich our neighborliness – prayers are answered.



7 thoughts on “Crofting – Goats on the Loose

  1. I loved so much about this post. I loved the paragraph about the errands you did during the day, that sounded so homely. I loved the paragraph about communicating with dogs, that so concurred with my own experience. And the story of the Houdini goats brought back memories!
    So many times I had just got the children all ready for an outing, dressed, shoed, toileted, fastened in the stroller – and glanced through the window to see an escapee goat eating the roses! There was no short way to get them in. Only one thing worked, but it worked every time. I had to go into their shed, in the darkest, furthest corner, and pretend to be doing something – something really interesting involving all my attention. Eventually the goat would appear at the door, and I had to ignore her. Her curiosity piqued, she couldn’t resist coming closer and closer to see what I was doing, and eventually when she was looking right round my elbow, I could grab her and get her back into the stall. Nothing else worked. We made their stalls out of fork lift pallets. Ours were urban goats, but happily the next door neighbour was a hairdresser with an unused back garden full of weeds, so we made them an exercise yard at the back of their shed, and then tethered them to brows sometimes in our garden, sometimes (with permission!) in the next door one. And we loaded them into the van and took them to the woods and fields to browse too, to get the wild garlic and the vetch and other plants they loved.
    Memories half-happy, half stressful – we were very counter-culture, and that never makes life easy. But I’m glad we did it.

  2. Congratulations on your first goat escape, I assume that there will more of them judging from the stories of my goat owning friends. One said that he had come to understand the floristic idea of goats being the creature of the devil more and more for each escape. Although he noted that he would never trade them for anything when they were on their best behaviour so I assume that escapes are something that comes with the joy of having goats. I love goat’s cheese so I am mighty glad that we have goats.

  3. One reason Colin says he’d never have goats -they escape from/chew through anything. Ella thinks Vanilla is the ‘cutest thing ever’, and when I told her the name she says ‘just like my Kitty’ ( a little grey stuffy cat).

    • Colin is right. These don’t seem to be too chewy, and the seller’s barn wasn’t cribbed, so he must give them a good mineral balance. I did look for signs! But – yes, they are escape artists. I keep watching Vanilla for indications that she may be getting close to dropping a kid, but she isn’t bagged out or off her feet.

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